String Armonica Electro-Acoustic Synthesizer Now Available

Merkaba Electronics has announced that its String Armonica electro-acoustic synthesizer is now available.

The String Armonica is a hybrid synthesizer that generates sound acoustically using 12 chromatic strings, controlled by an internal polyphonic wave generator. The video demonstrates that the strings can be played by plucking them, and also played via MIDI.

The instrument is based around 36 transducers, two exciters per string and one per string used as a pickup. The developers explain that the wave generator “shoots discrete synth waveforms into each string and resonates the various octave harmonics, similar to if you yell into a piano, and that resonates the harmonics.” But The String Armonica does this precisely, under MIDI control, and using electromagnets to stimulate the strings instead of sound.

The String Armonica offers 48 notes of full polyphony, which sound via the strings via harmonic resonance.

Here’s a live demo, showing how the String Armonica can be played via a MIDI keyboard:

As you can see from the videos, the fact that this is an acoustic synthesizer means that its sonic possibilities are constrained by the physical instrument. In other words, it’s always going to sound like a 12-stringed instrument.

But, because the strings are played by MIDI-controlled electromagnets, it can be played in ways that would be otherwise impossible. For example, you can sustain individual notes and then crescendo or decrescendo them, using keyboard or organ technique, and combine that with plucks and mutes on individual strings.

The instrument has true stereophonic output, via 12 individual pickups for each string.

Pricing and Availability:

The String Armonica is available now, in limited quantities, for $2950, with free shipping in the US. An initial batch of 20 instruments is planned. Contact them via their site for more information or to pre-order.

10 thoughts on “String Armonica Electro-Acoustic Synthesizer Now Available

  1. a very laudable progression in instrument design and modern electronics. There are a couple of inventions since some decades, but more frequently in recent times with exciters/transducers and resonant bodies.

  2. Very nice. Its hard to fully grasp instruments like this unless you’ve laid hands to a few others. I sometimes wonder who can afford them AND still have the time to justify it all. Its a beauty, but it would be near criminal to let, say, an Osmose just sit in a studio. This seems like an IRCAM piece best suited to a conservatory where it can be properly heard. It doesn’t seem meant for searing solos. I think I could come close to it with Chromaphone.

    1. > I sometimes wonder who can afford them AND still have the time to justify it all

      Film score composers I think.
      This being MIDI controlled means it can be synced and performances edited etc. Melodic / harmonic variations can be created simply by muting or rephrasing in a DAW, so it becomes useful for generating content for different cues. In that world a natural and harmonically rich sounding novel instrument would work great . Especially as it seems to occupy a very specific tonal region, so it could sit in an orchestral arrangement well. I bet the people who get one are people like Ty Unwin and Tom Holkenborg

    2. I actually used it for a lead on a commercial that I was scoring last night. I used it to replace the higher violin harmonic lines I was using. If you put the damper on it, and then run it through some distortion/echo, then it can also act as a cool lead element.

    3. It’s definitely a unique piece and use case scenario. I think anyone wanting something truly different like a hybrid electro-acoustic source would like one, beyond traditional film composers, etc. Perhaps folks who complain that there isn’t anything new when another bog-standard analog synth drops would gravitate towards this. As a matter of fact, I hope that happens because it would satisfy those users and support a cool company and concept too.

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